Travel Is Picking Up To Pre-Pandemic Levels

If you have taken a summer or fall trip this year, you have likely asked, “Is travel back at pre-pandemic levels?” The short answer is “Yes” in most situations. It’s easy to see that most destinations are busier than they were in 2020 and 2021.

Domestic Leisure Travel Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Levels

It’s indisputable that leisure travel within the United States has not only returned to but is exceeding the pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, picking the best airlines for holiday flights can help you avoid unnecessary delays and secure a competitive price.

The TSA checkpoint numbers indicate that more people are flying this autumn than in 2019 on many days. However, the 2019 summer numbers were still higher, with a gap from 300,000 to 500,000 screenings on most days.

Admittedly, business travel remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, contributing to the difference.

Additionally, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) makes two positive observations:

  • Travel purchases in September were 6% higher than before the pandemic.
  • Convention center and destination marketing room nights exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since 2019. In short, group travel is rising.

However, this situation isn’t entirely rosy for the domestic travel industry, as only 32% of American travelers rank leisure travel as a high priority. That’s a 2% decrease from July 2022, indicating that travel volumes may level out for now as people fulfill their revenge travel wishes or become more selective about limited-time flight sales.

Is International Travel Back To Normal?

The USTA reports that international visitors to the United States remain 34% below pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, more Americans are staying shoreside than usual, but there are more overseas trips as countries ease travel restrictions and re-open.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that global air travel won’t fully recover until 2024. For example, in 2021, international travel was down 47% from 2019 levels. Through August 2022, global travel remains at 67% of pre-pandemic statistics.

According to the World Economic Forum, air travel within the European Union is mostly back to normal, as flights in August 2022 were only 14% below the pre-pandemic norm.

When Will Business Travel Return To Normal?

Business travel remains the greatest laggard for a variety of reasons. Experts predict it may be in 2024 or even 2026 before business trips become frequent again.

A 3rd quarter business travel survey from USTA offers mixed insights:

  • 42% of businesses have policies restricting travel (down from 50% in Q2)
  • Larger companies are more likely to have cost controls and spending limitations than smaller businesses
  • Six in 10 company executives anticipate spending less on business-related travel than before the pandemic
  • Businesses are already cutting travel budgets and other expenses in anticipation of an economic recession in 2023

While 2022 has been one of the first years with widely-attended trade shows and business conferences, virtual meetings are still a popular alternative. However, the reason now is to control spending instead of worker safety.

Summary

If the final months of 2022 are like the rest of the year, airports and highways will be at their busiest levels since the pandemic. Therefore, it’s essential to book holiday travel now to snag the best flight schedules and prices.

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